WEDC investment to help fund renovation of new retail center

MADISON, WI. JULY 16, 2020 – The City of Sturgeon Bay is receiving a $250,000 state grant to help redevelop the former Younkers department store space located in downtown Sturgeon Bay. The property is the largest retail building in the downtown.

The Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support the renovation of the long-vacant building into a new retail center that will include an accessories and home furnishings store and additional retail space. The project is expected to be completed by October of this year.

“A vibrant downtown is crucial to a city’s overall economic health and its quality of life, which is why it is one of WEDC’s top priorities to support communities across the state and invest in improving their business districts,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “This project will not only preserve a piece of the city’s history by renovating a building that is 85 years old, but also will provide opportunities for future investment and growth.”

“This project provides multiple benefits to Sturgeon Bay,” said Mayor David Ward. “Not only does it fill the huge hole caused by the loss of Younkers, it allows a locally owned business to expand and, importantly, the project will include public restrooms through a partnership with the city.”

Todd Trimberger and Dr. Kelton Reitz are the sole members of the newly registered SBLifeIsGood LLC. They have acquired the property to renovate for its future use.

Trimberger is the owner of Bliss, an accessories and home furnishings store on Jefferson Street in Sturgeon Bay that has been operating for about 19 years. Along with owning various retail businesses over the last 30 years, Trimberger was also the Main Street Director and Executive Director of the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce for about eight years. Dr. Reitz is an internist at the Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay.

“Many people in the community have told me how excited they are about the building renovations and having it be occupied again,” said Trimberger. “The financial support from the City of Sturgeon Bay and WEDC is crucial to making this happen.”

The renovated building will have a total of 20,070 square feet of leasable space. The Bliss home furnishings store will occupy the majority of the main floor, as Trimberger wants to expand the business and relocate to the former Younkers building. There is space for additional retail businesses and related uses in the lower and upper levels and a portion of the main floor, and they are actively pursuing tenants for the space.

The building is in need of renovation, as there has been considerable deferred maintenance and updates are needed to bring it in line with modern building and accessibility codes. Additionally, the project includes the removal of a now obsolete underground tunnel and aboveground skywalk. The city and the developer have also reached an agreement to include public restrooms in the building, as the only restrooms are located in the basement and don’t meet accessibility guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Some of the most rewarding experiences I have been involved in as a former local and now state official have revolved around redevelopment of historic downtowns, said state Sen. André Jacque. “I am very excited that the state is partnering in revitalizing this area of my district and Northeast Wisconsin as an investment in spurring area-wide economic development, and I look forward to future announcements as more tenants join this re-energized retail center.”

“I am thrilled that WEDC is awarding this grant to the City of Sturgeon Bay to make redevelopment of the Younkers building possible,” said state Rep. Joel Kitchens. “Everything Todd Trimberger does, he does very well and I am so grateful for this investment in our community.  The Younkers building is the anchor of our downtown and I have no doubt this will revitalize the entire area.”

WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, WEDC has awarded more than $30 million in Community Development Investment Grants to over 100 communities for projects expected to generate more than $500 million in capital investments statewide.